It’s a time to remember, reflect and raise awareness.
Aug. 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day — a day to remember those who have died and honour those working on the front lines every day to save lives.
“Today, we honour all of the people who lives were ended tragically and abruptly by deadly street drugs in our city,” Mayor Gregor Robertson said in a press release. “These senseless deaths have left a trail of devastation in our community, but Vancouver is a resilient city and we won’t stop fighting for lifesaving measures — access to addictions treatment, clean opioids and essential health supports.”
Since 2016, more than 830 people in Vancouver have lost their lives to a suspected overdose. That year the province deemed it a public health emergency. And last month the city saw its second highest number of overdose deaths in a single month for 2018 — with 38 people dying from a suspected overdose.
“While this public health crisis continues to take a heavy toll on our city, we need to recognize the heroic efforts of our front line workers who are out there every day saving lives,” Gregor said.
Vancouver Fire Chief Darrell Reid tweeted out that the city’s firefighters attended 6,234 overdose calls in 2017 with an average of one death a day.
The #OpioidCrisis is heartbreaking. #FirstResponders see so much death.@VanFireRescue attended 6234 #overdoses in 2017, with an average of 1 death/day in #Vancouver— Fire Chief Darrell Reid (@FireChiefReid) August 31, 2018
BUT #VFRS has helped triple OD survival rate since crisis began!#InternationalOverdoseAwarenessDay
There were 366 overdose deaths in Vancouver in 2017. So far this year, 231 people have died as of the end of July.
The latest report from the BC Coroners Service notes that while overdose deaths continue to rise, there were no deaths at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.
To mark International Overdose Awareness Day, there are two events planned in Vancouver.
Shine the Light on Decriminalization, hosted by the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs at 62 East Hastings St. starting at 5 p.m., will include a barbecue, entertainment and a candlelight vigil at 8 p.m. There is also a vigil and rally planned for outside the Vancouver Art Gallery in the south plaza on Robson Street.
As well city hall will be lit up in purple to remember those who have died and thank front line workers.